Game On! 2015 Parapan Am Team Previews
About the writer: Nathan Bragg is a journalist residing in Vancouver, Canada who has travel to Toronto to cover the wheelchair rugby competition at the Parapan Am Games. Watch here for his daily articles and updates on all the rugby action. Follow Nathan on Twitter @WheelNbragg
Tomorrow, the wheelchair rugby competition will kick off at the Toronto 2015 Parapan Am Games featuring six teams from the Americas Zone, all vying for a medal and a spot in the 2016 Rio Paralympics. Here’s a team-by-team breakdown of what to expect.
Ranked 20th in the world, the Argentinians are trying to get back on the podium after missing out at the past two Zonal Championships. Argentina will be led by the agility of 2.5 Juan Herrera and experience of a 1.0 Juan Foa. After participating at the 2010 IWRF World Championship, they are familiar with the pressure and atmosphere of large-scale competition and will be hoping to assert themselves over rivals Brazil, Chile and Colombia.
The highest ranked of the South American sides at 19th in the world. Brazil will be aiming to build towards Rio and try and shock one of the North American powers. After a strong showing at this summer’s Amsterdam Quad Rugby Tournament where they had competitive games against established European teams; Germany and Belgium. With 2.5 Alexandre Taniguchi leading the way and a guaranteed place in the Paralympics, Brazil will look to make a statement in Toronto and show they can play with the world’s best.
The worlds #2 team and host nation are one of the favorites to take home a gold medal after their silver medal finish in London and Denmark courtesy of semi-final victories over the United States. Captained by 1.0s Trevor Hirschfield and Pico Dagenais, Canada have one of the world’s fastest players in 2014 IWRF World Championship MVP Zak Madell. Expect to see the Canadians play a variety of different line-ups as they try and win gold at home.
A newcomer to the international scene, the unranked Chileans punched their ticket to Toronto by beating out Peru and Paraguay to claim fourth at last year’s Big Maximus tournament in Brazil. The Chileans will be looking to surprise teams and demonstrate their improvement from a year ago.
The Colombians come in to the Parapan Am Games ranked 21st in the world and will be hoping to crack the podium and the top twenty. They’ve yet to win a medal at a Zonal Championship, but did take bronze at the Big Maximus tournament and recently finished seventh at the Metro Cup in Poland. Colombia is a developing side with some strong pieces like 1.0 Carlos Neme and new 3.5 Jhon Orozco, who should be a difficult cover for opposing hi-pointers.
Ranked 3rd in the world, the United States comes into the Parapan Am Games undefeated in Zonal Qualifiers and hope to continue that tradition while avenging their overtime loss at the 2014 World Championships to Canada. They’ve handled Canadian home-court advantage well in the past, having won four Canada Cups. They also eliminated Canada from medal contention at the 2010 World Championship in Vancouver.
USA is bringing a mix of returning veterans and new faces to Toronto. Among the returning vets from the 2014 World Championship team are all-stars Chuck Aoki and Joe Delegrave. The United States greatest strength continues to be their depth and balance so expect to see all twelve players on the court in Toronto, and a variety of different lines as they look to book their place in Rio and strike gold north of their border.
For team rosters and game/webcast schedule visit www.iwrf.com/?page=iwrf_news&id=429.